By Darcy Daniels
In the beginning of our daughter Wendy’s time in hospital, my husband Michael and I arrived at her bedside at different times. After we had both settled in, one of the first things we did was go down to the hospital’s coffee shop to talk. We understood that we were in for a long haul and we knew things were going to be really tough medically, emotionally, financially all of it. In a whirlwind of chaos, we decided we had to set down some guidelines for communication and stick with them. We were both horribly scared, but we knew that we had each other. And we had to keep our lines of communication open. We agreed to some ground rules.
1) Be kind with your words
Don’t ever say anything that you can’t take back. You know those words, spoken in anger, using phrases such as “You never” or “I always.” They aren’t helpful. We decided that we would be a team, and we would act like a team.
2) Be honest with your emotions
Just saying your emotions out loud makes you feel better because you have put a name to them. “I’m scared” is a powerful phrase. Don’t expect your partner to know how you are feeling. You need to state it.
3) Say when you need a break
Sometimes we all need to take a step back, get a cup of coffee, or walk outside and breathe a little fresh air. Everyone feels overwhelmed at some point in their journey. Taking a few minutes to separate and regroup your thoughts can help you in the long run.
4) Start the day with “I love you”
Michael and I would say, “I know today is going to be hard, so I want to say I love you now in case I forget later.” It sounds corny, but it would set the tone for the day. We had this in place already, and had used it before trips and when buying a house, and on other stressful days.
Wendy spent the next seven weeks in hospital and has been an in-patient for more than 200 days in her lifetime. We still use these rules, and I honestly believe they have strengthened our marriage. Communication and affection are so important. Michael’s strength and sense of humour have saved my sanity many times. That is what love looks like.
Darcy Daniels is a writer, history professor and co-chair of the Family Advisory Council at her local children’s hospital. She blogs about caring for kids with chronic illness for The Mighty and on her own blog, Brave Fragile Warriors.